Candidates have to play to their strengths. If they are good at data - quote data. If they are good at anecdotes - quote an anecdote. The worst thing a candidate who is good at anecdotes can do in a debate is try to quote data - or vice versa.
I also counseled the staff to seek out every reporter they could find and declare, following the debate, a shockingly superior performance by their candidate.
I told them I didn't care if their candidate threw up on his shoes during the debate. Say it was a victory for anyone in the District who had ever suffered gastric distress.
Watch for the answers by Obama and Romney. See how closely they track Jim Lehrer's questions. Also watch for the post-debate "spin" and see how "shockingly superior" the performances were for each candidate according to their official spinners.
I know we've been through this before, but it bears repeating. Reporters will watch the debate on TVs placed in an enormous tent.
There was a time when reporters sat in the hall and watch the debate from there. Until the debate between Senators Dan Quayle (R-Ind) and Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex).
That was the infamous "Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine and you, Senator, are no Jack Kennedy" debate.
Reporters in the hall - notwithstanding the uppercut to Quayle's jaw by Bentsen - thought Quayle had done plenty well enough. He knew his stuff and hadn't wilted under the pressure.
But people who saw the debate at home, on TV, saw it as a completely different program with Quayle looking weak and small.
That's why reporters now watch debates on TV like you and me and 50 million other Americans as opposed to the 2,500 people in the hall.
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